PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (NNS) -- The commodore of Combined Task Group 41.8, in port off the coast Haiti, expressed gratitude and appreciation for the men and women dedicated to the support of the battered nation in the multinational relief effort named Operation Unified Response Jan. 24.
Haiti was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake Jan. 12 that left more than 100,000 dead and innumerable more in need of food, water and medical supplies.
"This is a mission we can all be proud of," Capt. Rodelio Laco said. "This group helping Haiti is composed of military, civilian, non-governmental organizations and medical personnel from around the world. We all should be proud of the assistance that we have been able to give to the Haitian people. It will take all of these organizations to make a dent in this situation."
Laco said this has been his most rewarding tour of duty in over 25 years of naval service. Currently, his charge is the mission of the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), tasked to provide medical care for the uncountable many who were injured during the initial earthquake and its aftershocks.
"We are here to help. Comfort was in Haiti last year and we are here to help friends during difficult times," Laco said. "Everyone is here to help."
Comfort was undergoing repairs in Baltimore Jan. 14 when President Barack Obama issued the executive order to get underway to assist in this humanitarian mission. The ship left only three days later.
"This is the quickest a group has ever come together. The mission is hard work and there is much to do but it's uplifting," Laco said. "I have heard no complaints [from the crew of the Comfort]. I am proud of everyone on board. Everyone has an important job and we cannot accomplish our mission without everyone continuing to contribute their time and efforts."
"Comfort has never been tested like this before," said Capt. Larry Jackson, Laco's chief of staff. "It is awe-inspiring how every able-bodied person has risen to the challenge."
Laco said the response from the people of Haiti has been overwhelmingly positive. The optimistic attitude of the Haitians is driving the multinational effort to work hard and to achieve more in a shorter period of time.
"I cannot stress enough that this is not one group taking the lead, it is a worldwide network of friends that will help," Laco said. "Without the participation of everyone, we cannot succeed."
For more information on Comfort's participation in Operation Unified Response to bring aid to Haiti, visit www.haiticomfort.blogspot.com, and www.twitter.com/USNSComfort.
For more news from USNS Comfort, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/tah20/.